Category Archives: General

The category for uncategorized stuff. ;)

Picture of Roxie the Saint Bernard Labrador Retriever mix breed dog aka Labranard

Goodbye Roxie

Today would have been Roxie’s 7th birthday. Happy Birthday Roxie.

Picture of Roxie the Saint Bernard Labrador Retriever mix breed dog aka Labranard

Roxie

Roxie was our Saint Bernard Labrador Mix aka Labranard and she was born with severe hip dysplasia. When she was 6 months old, the vet told us to put her down because she would never walk. Well, she walked and ran and did everything she wanted for almost 7 years.

Earlier this month we had to euthanize her as she was to the point where you could see that every movement was causing her pain.

We miss you Roxie but we know you are no longer in pain.

Picture of a pink Ikea flower shaped light for kids.

DIY Kid Wakeup Clock

Do you have a child that doesn’t quite understand that 5am isn’t an appropriate time to wakeup and come jump on Daddy? I do. Last spring, our 3 year old learned that when the sun came up, Daddy typically was also getting out of bed. That was a highly unfortunate coincidence at the time. As the spring became summer and the sun came up earlier, Daddy was woken up with “Daddy, get up – the sun is up” earlier and earlier. Things actually got worse as the days got shorter as she started waking up before the sun was up (out of habit) but then had no way to differentiate between 7am and 4am.

The quest for a simple clock she would understand started in the fall and was only satisfied about a month ago.

There are a lot of commercial options for children’s sleep clocks or children’s wakeup clocks. The problem with most is that they are really frickin’ expensive. I’m not paying >$50 for a specialty clock that doesn’t even have the actual time on it. The cheapest one I found was still $35 + shipping and was basically a light that turned on at a set time. Well shit, I can do better than that!

On a trip to Ikea, The Boss picked up a simple kids flower light for ~$10.

I then snagged a digital programmable timer for $10 from Canadian Tire.

Image of a programmable timer made by Noma

The brains of the DIY Kids Wakeup Clock

$20 later and we have a light that is programmed to turn on at the same time Daddy’s alarm clock goes off and then turn off again soon after (no need for it to stay on wasting electricity!).

Now when the 3 year old comes and jumps on me at 4am I can at least ask her if the light is on and if it wasn’t she will usually settle back down and go to sleep again. Small improvements are golden!

Oh, and I nearly forgot the best part! My $20 solution supports up to 20 on/off combinations and even supports a different wakeup time on the weekends! That’s worth way more than the $35+shipping option we had found online.

This version DIY Children’s Wakeup Clock cost a bit more than the initial one. I originally took an unused block heater timer to turn a light on and off. While it worked, it didn’t have the option of multiple programs and the light we used wasn’t that exciting from a kid’s point of view.

I think the $20 solution is pretty damn good and the best part is I can re-use both pieces once we get past this silly wakeup time issue.

Direct Energy Rental Terms Change

It was recently announced that Direct Energy was changing the rental terms on their hot water tanks. While this isn’t normally a cause for concern for existing customers, Direct Energy decided that they were going to try to move all existing rental customers onto the new contract, without their consent. A form letter was mailed out to all existing customers (basically, anyone who started renting before September 2010 which is when the current rental terms came into effect). This includes some customers who have had the same rental hot water heater for 15+ years!

The biggest problem with this whole fiasco is that they were planning on moving customers without their consent. Basically, a form letter was sent to customers (I don’t seem to have received one yet) that could easily be confused as “addressed junk mail”. Apparently, buried somewhere in this letter is wording that states you will automatically be moved to the new contract unless you call and state you want to remain on the old contract. Well shit! Most people have already tossed the letter as it seems to be about new terms. If you are already on a contract, why would you expect the terms to change on you – it’s a damn contract!

OK, so aside from the shady contract change, what’s different in the new contract? It’s going to be a whole lot more expensive to get out of your rental contract.

The minimum to get out under the new contract is $274. On the old contract it was $75.

But that all depends on the actual water heater you have and it’s age.

User Belfour on the RedFlagDeals.com forum posted the Direct Energy 2012 Buyout Schedule. According to that and using my ~8 year old Polaris 34G as an example, it would cost me $3153 to buy out my tank. That’s insane! I can buy and install a brand new Polaris for not much more than that. On top of that, the buyout prices are going to increase each year.

Ellen Roseman (From The Star) wrote a post Direct Energy curbs competition with new contracts and the first comment from Dave indicates that according to the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule (which is no longer available online) to buyout a 15+ year old Polaris 34G tank it was only $100. Under the new 2012 Direct Energy buyout schedule it is $1092! WTF? What was a 15 year old tank in 2009 is an 18 year old tank now and it’s suddenly almost $900 more to buy it out?

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule [PDF].

And now it seems Direct Energy has realized that they may have just derailed their gravy train with this idiotic attempt to grab more money. According to CTV Toronto, Direct Energy backs down on water tank contract changes.

“We have not communicated this initiative as well as we could have.” - Rob Comstock, senior vice president of Canadian services for Direct Energy

Well, frankly Rob, NO SHIT SHERLOCK!

There’s one big problem with trying to fleece consumers this way – they tend to not forget. I know I won’t forget. I am going to be exploring my options soon to see what I can do about my rented Polaris 34G water heater. While it has been nice having the “included insurance” due to the number of issues we had with the tank, I’m confident now that if a competent installer had been involved (and not Direct Energy installers) I would never had so many problems. Direct Energy has already collected almost $3500 from me in rental fees since we bought this house and you can be damn sure I’m done renting tanks. As long as the “old” contract terms remain in effect, they may get some more rental money while I look but the replacement tank will NOT be rented from Direct Energy.

DIY Time of Use Clock

Every now and then we find ourselves wondering what Time of Use period we are in. Usually this happens just as we’re getting ready to hit start on the electric clothes dryer. So I came up with an ultra simple Do it Yourself Time of Use clock. Here’s how you can make one yourself.

Taking an old wall clock, I popped off the plastic cover and made a circle out of a piece of paper that would fit inside the clock (without covering the numbers). Then I simply marked the hours along the outside edge of the paper and drew some guidelines to allow me to make the overlay. The one complication is that a wall clock is only 12 hours whereas a typical day has 24 hours (damn daylight savings time screwing stuff up twice a year!). To get around this, you simply make two sections to your overlay. In my example, I used the outer ring for AM times and the inner ring for PM times.

It’s only sort of confusing. You can see the two rings in the picture below.

Picture of a clock with colour coded sections indicating the current Time of Use period.

Quick and dirty DIY Time of Use clock. Maybe the kids will let me use markers next time.

Then I begged the kids for some markers but they said I could only use crayons so I just coloured in the appropriate sections based on the current Time of Use winter schedule. Then you just stick the overlay on top of your clock face, close it all up again, set the time and marvel at your ingenuity.

One problem I ran into was that the clock mechanism wouldn’t easily disconnect from the hands for me and I didn’t want to risk breaking the clock. To get around this, I simply cut the overlay and slipped it under the hands. A little bit of tape and it’s all good.

When the Time of Use summer season starts, I’ll just flip the overlay over, beg for crayons (or markers) again and put the summer season schedule on the other side. And that’s an Ultra simple DIY Time of Use clock to stick on the wall beside the electric clothes dryer.

Goodbye Zip! Hello Zip!

Yesterday I cancelled our Zip.ca account. Why? Because Zip.ca now has competition in town – itself!

We’ve been with Zip.ca for well over a year now on the 1 DVD unlimited plan and it worked out quite nicely. We’d (typically) get a new DVD from our ZipList to watch every weekend. All for the low price of ~$13/month. That’s much better than the ~$6 the local rental place charged for a night. Things went smashingly for a year and then Zip.ca changed their plans…

Due to rising costs (understandable), they increased the monthly charge for the 1 DVD plan so now it was just over $14/month. That’s a reasonable amount considering we were getting 4-5 DVDs a month. Again, much less than the ~$6 the local rental place was charging. BUT, the biggest change that screws up the whole thing for us is that they no longer allow DVDs to “cross in the mail” on the 1 DVD plan. Bummer.

When DVDs can “cross in the mail”, you’d mark the DVD as returned the day you toss it in the mailbox. Usually at the end of that same day (sometimes the next day), Zip.ca would send you a new DVD. This way if I tossed a DVD in the mailbox on Monday morning, a new one would be sent out Monday or Tuesday. That means we’d actually get it on Thursday or Friday (for some reason, mail takes a long time to get into our PO Box at the Post Office in our town, but that’s a rant for another time).

The Zip.ca red envelopes that DVDs are mailed out in

The Zip.ca red mailer envelopes that are used to send DVDs to customers.

Without the ability for DVDs to “cross in the mail”, Zip now won’t send a new DVD until they receive our old one. That means if I drop it in the mail on Monday, they get it Tuesday or Wednesday, send us a new one Wednesday or Thursday and we might get it the next Monday, most likely Tuesday. Well, that just doesn’t work very well for us as we typically want the DVD for the weekend. Bam, now we’re basically down to only getting a DVD every two weeks. That ~$14/month is no longer a good deal if that’s how we use the Zip.ca account.

Well, we had a slight problem (was actually a mistake on my part – Ooops!) in December and I contacted Zip.ca. They were kind enough to help me see what I had done wrong but they also pointed out something we didn’t know – there was now a Zip rental kiosk in one of the local grocery stores. I’m sure you’re saying “so what?” right about now so I’m, going to tell you.

The Zip Kiosk rents DVDs for $1/day, or Blu Ray and new release DVDs for $2/day. DAMN! Not only is that a better deal than the local rental place, it’s a better deal than Zip.ca itself!

On our Zip.ca plan, we can only get DVDs and new release DVDs are nearly impossible to get. With the Zip Kiosk, we can drop in Friday or Saturday and grab a DVD <angelic choir>or even a Blu Ray!</angelic choir> for $2! Then we just take it back the next day. Some would consider this inconvenient but given that we don’t have home mail delivery, we always had to go out to get our Zip DVD anyways and after you watched it, you have to find a mailbox ASAP to toss it in so you could get the next DVD sent out.

Yeah, so Goodbye Zip! Hello Zip!

Yes, we might not be able to get the exact movie we want but that’s no different than Zip.ca right now. If there’s nothing we want to watch, we save ourselves $2. And this way we always get something that The Boss (or the Princesses)  is in the “mood” to watch.

At the moment you can also go to the Zip website and request a free rental code via email. Yeah, it’s only worth up to $2 but it’s a free rental!

Click to go to the Zip Kiosk locator tool